Be a Bucket Filler

Encourage each of your students to be a “bucket filler”! I originally posted this on the Collaborative blog All Things Upper Elementary a couple of years ago. It was written during March, but bucket filling is an amazing tool to use from Day 1 of the school year – or at any point when you need a little boost of kindness and community!

Original Post Below:

March Madness: It’s not just a bunch of basketball games

Is it just me, or do the wee little darlings get a little squirrelly this time of year? I don’t know if it’s because the weather has kept us cooped up inside for months, or if the stress of state testing is starting to affect us all, but March is always a little….off. The tattling increases, petty argument rates are up, and my nerves start to get fried. I always find that I need to spend some time reinforcing our classroom community in order to right the ship again. Last week, “Team Turner” revisited the book, “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” and now we are refocusing our energies on kindness and positivity within our little community.


This year, Team Turner became bucket fillers. At the beginning of the year, I read aloud the book “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud. Before reading it, I feared it may be too juvenile for my third graders, but I was wrong. I think it’s awesome and a great message for any upper elementary classroom. 

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the book, the basic idea is that everyone in the world carries around an invisible bucket. That bucket can either be filled or dipped into. When our buckets are full, we feel happy and have high self-esteem. When our buckets are empty, we feel sad and have negative feelings about ourselves. When we are kind to others, we fill their buckets, which in turn fills our own. It’s such a simple but powerful metaphor.

If I taught fourth or fifth grade, I’d likely just use the book as a read aloud. But since my third graders still respond so well to visual and hands-on reminders, I decided to implement a concrete Bucket Filling system in my classroom. 

Ways to be a Bucket Filler

After reading the book, we brainstormed ways to fill someone’s bucket. We put a few of our favorites up on a poster that serves as a reminder.  I’ve since jazzed it up with a chevron-themed bulletin board pack (I’ll post a link at the end of the post), because honestly, everything is better in chevron.

I found small metal buckets from Target for $1 apiece (which was a little more expensive this year than I would have liked with 29 students…sigh). (Click here for similar buckets on Amazon – you can even get little chalk labels to write students’ names.) I’ve seen people use shoe organizers, tupperware, and other things as “buckets”, too. 

I made yarn balls to use as the bucket fillers themselves. Let me rephrase — I made about 50 yarn balls before realizing that trying to make enough yarn balls for the entire class to have a bucket’s worth was COMPLETELY INSANE, and then proceeded to order a jumbo pack of pompoms on Amazon. Anyway…. 

Filling the Buckets

After experimenting with about 1,000 different configurations of this, I settled on hanging the buckets on the front of my desk using magnetic clips. It’s not the prettiest looking thing in the world, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice valuable counter space to house the buckets. I wrote each student’s name on the bucket with chalk.

When students do something kind, help a classmate, give a compliment, etc. they place a pompom in that student’s bucket AND in their own. It’s a great visual reminder that our words and actions not only affect others, but they also affect the way that we view ourselves.

When a student fills his or her bucket, he or she dumps out the pompoms and ties a ribbon around the handle. The pompoms and ribbons are housed next to the buckets. I bought some cheap-o tubs and ribbons at the Dollar Tree.

The best part about the bucket filling system is that it is completely student-run. It was really important to me that this was something that helped to support and encourage positive behavior – not something that would add an additional management task to my day. I don’t monitor students’ pompoms, I don’t make them write down how they filled a bucket, and there’s no prize for filling a bucket X amount of times. The prize is having a full bucket – metaphorically speaking. And if they put a pompom in that isn’t REALLY deserved? I’ve decided that’s alright. They are taking a step in the right direction. Some kids use it ALL the time, some kids use it a few times a week, and some kids have barely touched it since the beginning of the year. And that is ok with me. The kids that need it find their way to it. After rereading the book last week, students got excited about being bucket fillers all over again.

More Bucket Filling Resources

I have a few bucket filling items available in my TpT store. The “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” mini-poster that you can see in the last picture is a freebie available in my store. Click the caption to download a copy for your own classroom:

Click here to download the poster for free!

I also made a Bulletin Board poster pack to match the mini-poster, because my handwritten sign just wasn’t doing it for me. 🙂 I don’t have pictures of it in my classroom, but if you’re interested, there’s a free preview to check out at my store. It’s got 24 ways to fill a bucket, along with bucket filling sheets for anyone who wants students to write. Click here to check it out!



  1. Shari Santiago says

    My granddaughter taught me about bucket filling a few years ago. She is the most sincere bucket filler I know. I am hoping to implement something like this in the School for the Deaf where I work. Kindness is so important especially the way our world is today.

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